Gold ETF Flows: February, 2022

Gold ETFs inflows continue in February amid high inflation and geopolitical risk

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Gold ETFs inflows continue in February amid high inflation and geopolitical risk

Global gold ETFs drew net inflows of 35.3t (US$2.1bn, 1.0% of AUM) in February. Positive flows were almost evenly split between North American and European funds, continuing the year-to-date growth in Western markets and considerably outweighing outflows from Asia. Global net inflows were driven by stubbornly high inflation and a surge in geopolitical risk on the back of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which pushed the gold price to an intra-month high of US$1,936/oz.1 ?

North American inflows of 21.5t (US$1.3bn) were dominated by larger US funds in absolute terms, but virtually all funds in the region grew at a similar rate. Alongside persistently high inflation, the Russian invasion and corresponding economic sanctions ?considerably reduced expectations of more aggressive interest rate hikes from the Fed – including at its upcoming meeting later this month – ?further supporting demand for gold ETFs. This trend is continuing into March: month-to-date inflows into US funds already approach US$2bn.?

European funds grew by 21.4t (US$1.3bn) on the heels of elevated headline inflation reports defying expectations due to soaring food and energy components. The Russian invasion of Ukraine exacerbated inflation fears due to its implications for energy supply in the region. At the same time, sovereign bond yields declined towards the end of the month as projections for monetary tightening by the European Central Bank were delayed to 2023 in the wake of the conflict.?

These near-equal inflows into North America and Europe significantly outweighed outflows from Asia, where funds lost 7.4t (-US$452mn) in February. The bulk of these outflows were driven by Chinese ETFs likely due to tactical selling as the gold price surged, while local equity markets remained positive over the month.2 ?In India, profit-taking also likely contributed to additional outflows during the month. Flows into other regions were largely flat in February.3?

 

ETF flows chart

Data as of

Sources: Bloomberg, Company Filings, ICE Benchmark Administration, World Gold Council; Disclaimer

Price performance and trading volumes

Gold posted its strongest returns since May 2021, ending the month more than 6% higher at US$1,910/oz.4 ?Prices rallied throughout February as a flight-to-quality among investors outweighed higher nominal yields and a marginally positive dollar. Elevated market volatility and general uncertainty provided the backdrop for this as the Ukrainian crisis unfolded.?

Daily trading averages in February reduced slightly from the start of the year, decreasing to US$136bn from US$145bn the month prior,5 ?despite the rally in gold prices. Net long positioning, via the recent Commitment of Traders (COT) report for COMEX gold futures, initially declined before steadily rising to 904t (US$56bn) – the highest level since July 2020 – as gold price performance was robust.6?

For more details, see Gold Market Commentary, February 2022.

Regional flows7?

Inflows in North America and Europe outweighed outflows from Asia?

  • North American funds had inflows of 21.3t (US$1.3bn, 1.2%)
  • European funds had inflows of 21.4t (US$1.3bn, 1.4%)

Individual flows?

SPDR? Gold Shares and iShares Gold Trust in the US and iShares Physical Gold in the UK drove inflows, partially offset by outflows from Huaan Yifu Gold and Bosera Gold Exchange in China and Xtrackers Physical Gold in Germany

  • In North America, SPDR? Gold Shares had inflows of 11.3t (US$711mn, 1.2%), while iShares Gold Trust gained 8.1t (US$483mn, 1.7%)
  • In Europe, iShares Physical Gold had inflows of 8.3t (US$511mn, 4.0%), while Xtrackers Physical Gold (GBP) lost 2.5t (-US$148mn, -75%)
  • In Asia, Chinese ETFs Huaan Yifu Gold, Bosera Gold Exchange, and E Fund Gold had outflows of 2.7t (-US$166mn, -9.8%), 2.5t (-US$149mn, -12.0%), and 1.6t (-US$97mn, -14.8%), respectively.?

Long-term trends

Gold ETFs continued to rebound in 2022 amid a flight-to-quality in North America and Europe despite selling within Asian funds

  • In 2021, gold ETFs saw global outflows of US$9.1bn (-173t) as large North American funds lost assets in line with lower gold prices, while low-cost8?funds and all other regions remained mostly positive
  • Conversely, this year has been marked with strong inflows into US funds, in addition to continued growth in European ETFs. On the other hand, Asian gold ETFs have experienced outflows of over US$1.0bn (-12.4%), compared to inflows of close to US$1.5bn (20.4%) last year?
  • After?growing by 45% (US$3.7bn, 63t) in 2021 with consistent inflows independent of gold price behaviour, low-cost gold ETFs remained positive adding US$918mn (15.7t, 7.7%) year-to-date.?

Footnotes

  1. Based on the LBMA Gold Price PM as of 24 February 2022.

  2. Based on the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index as of 28 February 2022.

  3. ‘Other’ regions include Australia, South Africa, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

  4. Based on the LBMA Gold Price PM as of 28 February 2022.

  5. Daily trading volumes as of January 2022 was previously reported as US$169bn. This has been revised lower to US$145bn following a recent methodology update. On Goldhub, see Trading volumes.

  6. As of 22 February 2022, based on available data.

  7. We calculate gold-backed ETF flows both in ounces/tonnes of gold and in US dollars because these two metrics are relevant in understanding funds’ performance. The change in tonnes gives a direct measure of how holdings evolve, while the dollar value of flows is a finance-industry standard that gives a perspective on how much investment reaches the funds. We have made a few adjustments and improvements to our calculation methodology as of 1 July 2021 that will impact historical and future data. Specifically, we revised the methodology used to estimate changes in gold holdings as described below:

    • Previously, changes in tonnes were calculated by converting a fund’s AUM (in USD) into gold holdings (in tonnes) and computing the difference over periods. However, currency movements and large daily and weekly gold price movements could distort the difference between tonnage change and US-dollar fund flows during short time horizons. We therefore adjusted tonnage change as a function of fund flows versus AUM and replaced the tonnage change field with fund flows (tonnes).
    • Now, for most funds, we estimate US-dollar fund flows, as described in section 2.3.2 below, and then convert those flows to fund flows (tonnes).?
    • Fund flows (tonnes) and US-dollar fund flows will now represent a more aligned explanation of investment demand for gold ETFs, while the true holdings of a fund, in US dollars and tonnage, will remain a close estimate, impacted by the currency and price volatility described above.
    • Based on our initial analysis, the changes are not likely to have a material long-term effect on historical information, particularly on a global or regional aggregate basis, but will adjust short-term fluctuations that can sometimes occur due to input data and timing variations.
  8. Low-cost US-based gold-backed ETFs are defined by the World Gold Council as exchange-traded open-ended funds listed in the US and Europe, backed by physical gold, with annual management fees and other expenses like FX costs of 20bps or less. At present, these include Aberdeen Physical Swiss Gold Shares, SPDR? Gold MiniShares, Graniteshares Gold Trust, Goldman Sachs Physical Gold ETF, iShares Gold Trust Micro, CI Gold Bullion Fund, WisdomTree Core Physical Gold, and Xtrackers IE Physical Gold ETC.